1-Minute Daily Tips
You already know that you should brush your teeth at least twice a day for 2 minutes each time, floss at least once a day, and see your dentist on a regular basis — “the proven formula for success when it comes to keeping your teeth healthy,” says Kimberly Harms, DDS, a Farmington, Minnesota dentist and a spokeswoman for the American Dental Association (ADA). But there are lots of other things you can do throughout the day to improve your oral health, too — and they only take a minute.
Habit #1: Rinse with Tap Water
Tap water from public systems usually contains fluoride, a key mineral that can help strengthen the enamel in your teeth. In fact, putting fluoride in the community water supply is “the single most effective public health measure to prevent dental decay,” according to the ADA. Plus, drinking water can help rinse away the cavity-causing bacteria from food that might be lingering on your teeth, Dr. Harms says.
Habit #2: Snack Smarter
Limit the number of times you have sugary snacks throughout the day. “It’s not the amount of sugar you eat that’s harmful to your teeth, but how often you eat it,” Harms says. That’s because the bacteria that live in your mouth feast on food particles left behind on your teeth. As the bacteria digest sugars in those particles, acids are produced that, over time, can contribute to enamel erosion and cavities.
Habit #3: Drink Tea
Green and black tea contain polyphenols, or compounds that can destroy or limit bacteria growth, according to the University of Rochester Medical Center. It’s another way to prevent bacteria from producing acid that contributes to tooth decay.
Habit #4: Grab a Straw
You might use a straw when you’re drinking at a restaurant, but you should use one at home, too. That’s because straws draw sugary and acidic liquids away from your teeth, according to the Indiana Dental Association. Every time you drink something sweet, it sets off bacteria that can attack your teeth. The attack restarts with every sip and can last for 20 minutes or so, according to the Wisconsin Dental Association. Keeping sugar away from contact with your teeth can help.
Habit #5: Chew Sugarless Gum
It’s a good idea to keep your mouth moist, says Andrew Fried, DDS, a dentist in Nottingham, Maryland. Chewing sugarless gum stimulates the production of saliva, which neutralizes and washes away acids that are produced by the bacteria in your mouth. The flow of saliva also brings more calcium and phosphate to the surface of your teeth, which can help strengthen enamel, according to the ADA. To be most effective, chew for 20 minutes after eating, the association adds. And remember: Chewing gum doesn’t replace brushing and flossing.
Habit #6: Use a Tongue Scraper
If you suffer from bad breath, a tongue scraper may help, Dr. Fried says. “A lot of bacteria build up on the tongue,” he says. “And some people develop more bacteria on the back of their tongues than others.” If you’re one of them, take a minute each night to use a tongue scraper to remove these bacteria, which don’t just cause bad breath, but can also put your teeth at risk. Your toothbrush can work too, but a tongue scraper is easier to use, Harms says.
Habit #7: Crunch on Raw Carrots
You’ve probably heard that carrots are good for your eyes — but they can also be good for your teeth. Chewing carrots increases saliva production, which helps wash away the acid that can linger in your mouth. “You want to neutralize, neutralize, neutralize those acids in your mouth,” Harms says. Carrots (and other fresh vegetables, for that matter) also have lots of vitamins and minerals that are important for a strong immune system — which, in turn, can help keep your teeth healthy too, Harms says.